Adela Schwarzer Is Still Searching for Her Siblings…
Adela Schwarzer, born 1923
- She Saw Them in the Rzeszow Ghetto in Spring 1942 for the Last Time-
Schwarzer, now living in Sweden,
seems to be the only Holocaust survivor of her closest family. She survived
seven Nazi slave labour camps, and at the final stage – Bergen-Belsen
– was found dying on a heap of corpses, 23 kg weight. Adela says her
determination to meet with her family gave her strength to survive all that.
However, her search after the War has not brought any result - but not all
forms have been tried yet. The meaning is to find any trace, any information
about the fate of her four sisters and two brothers.
Schwarzer Family in the Pre-War Kraków
Adela's story brings us to the Rzeszow
ghetto, but it starts in Kraków, where she was born, in 13
Soltyka Street in 1923. Both her parents,
however, were from Cieszanow, a small town close to the present Ukrainian
border, and they moved to Krakow. Father, Mechel Schwarzer (b. 1888; also
mentioned as Mechel Schwarz in Kraków census of 1921) settled there in
1912, and mother, Malka BeilaTennenbaum (b. 1890)
moved there in 1917. She probably followed her father Mendel Tennenbaum (b. 1846).
Mechel Schwarzer born 1888
Malka Beila Tennenbaum born 1890
Adela remembers her grandfather Mendel
telling the story of his hasty escape from Cieszanow on a white horse. Maybe
he was fleeing from the riots against owners which were stirred by the
Russian revolution… The shock of 1917 was so great that later Mendel
used to escape on his “white horse” even at… his sleep.
She remembers also a very pious uncle, Mechel's
brother, who was coming from Grodzisko Dolne to visit them in Krakow,
taking care of it that the metal pots were made really kosher by red-heated
In Kraków the Schwarzer family also
lived in 32 Miodowa Street
(ca 1918 – 1922) and in 13 Wielicka Street (? – 1940). It is
worth noticing that while Miodowa is the border line of the historical Jewish
district, Soltyka is closer to the center of Kraków - at the back of the JagellonianUniversity's MedicalAcademy clinics - and it marks
the Schwarzer family's step toward assimilation and social
advancement. Moving to Podgórze in the years preceding the World War II may
mean that the family got impoverished.
The family were poor
but open and hospitable: in the house in Wielicka at the beginning of the War
also a daughter to Mendel from his previous marriage, Chaja Tennenbaum, with her sons HaskelandJosef had meals, and they lived
there for a short time though the living space was one room and a kitchen for
the twelve persons.
Mechel Schwarzer was a tradesman and cooperated in business with Chaim
Abend, a trade agent, who lived in the 11
Marquet Square at the centre of Kraków. They had
a shop with furniture and antiques at 2 Mostowa in the Jewish District
Kazimierz (at this address also the society Nossei Massu for support
of orphans and widows had their seat and a prayer place). The business was
also to restore old furniture. Chaim and Mechel employed three
more persons: a cabinet-maker, an upholsterer and a selling woman, who was Gusta Schwarzer, Adela's
eldest sister. Mechel often went for business trips to Katowice
and Jaroslaw. Chaim Abend with his wife Mania (both from
Jaroslaw) often stayed with the Schwarzers' family in Wielicka as they
liked children but had none of their own.
Malka Beila Tennenbaum-Schwarzer was
daughter to Adela Feder,
third wife of Mendel Tennenbaum. Mechel Schwarzer was son to Izak andGitla and he had sister Bronia and a brother of unknown
name. Mendel died in September 1939 and was buried at the Jewish
cemetery in Podgórze (in 1942 to be completely profaned and destroyed by the
Nazis who used the ground as Plaszow forced labour camp territory, and all
the matzevots as building material for it).
As for the parents' family: Bronia
Schwarzer (herself a match-maker) married one Lieberman. One of
their sons was Henryk Lieberman
who married Lusia.
They settled in Israel.
One of Mendel Tennenbaum's grandsons, son to Malka Beila's
half-brother, cousin to Adela, was Leibek (Leon) Eres-Tennenbaum.
Leibek Tennenbaum was boss at Fromowic – big delicatessen store
near Kazimierz which imported goods from all over the world. In 1972 he was
still alive – living in Israel.
His wife was Bina,
his sons are Gershon
and Mordechaj. His
brother Izak Tennenbaum
married before WW II and left for the USA,
where he had a chocolate factory (he soon died, however).
Here are Adela's siblings: IZAK Schwarzer(b. 1919), GUSTA Schwarzer (b. 1921), HELENA Schwarzer (b. 1925), REGINA Schwarzer (b. 1926), SAMUEL Schwarzer (b. 1928), AMALJA Schwarzer(b. 1930). (Their photos
follow at the end.)
Izak was a car mechanic, Gusta
– a seller in Mechel's shop, Helena
was a tailor: she had learned her profession at the secondary school of the
Jewish society, “Ognisko Pracy” (“Work Society”, 7
Skawinska Boczna St.). Amalia was born at
the Jewish Hospital at 8 Skawinska Boczna. She was so weak that doctors said
she would not survive – and, yet, when Adela saw her youngest
sister last, she was a teeneager.
Adela attended the Polish grammar school
– “Szkola Ludowa” (“FolkSchool”) – close to
their house at Wielicka Street.
Later she was learning her profession at a Jewish modiste's shop at Florianska
St. (Hela's school too). Once in 1930s she was
to deliver hats within the neighbourhood of the university. She remembers
being chased then by a pack of students who were shouting: “Jews to Palestine!
Let's ‘have’ the Jewess!”
Schwarzers under the Nazi Occupation in Kraków
With the Nazi occupation (which started in Krakow
on September 6th, 1939) a
number of restrictions were applied to Jewish inhabitants, which among others
concerned moving around some areas of Krakow. The
Jewish modiste's shop at Florianska was closed. Once, after visiting a
forbidden area, Mechel was heavily beaten and all that had worth was
taken away from him.
Soon, in November 1939, the Krakow Jews –
under a death sentence – were demanded to wear a white band with a blue
star of David on their arm. Adela remembers that all inhabitants had
to queue for bread since
throughout a major part of the day. And then it could happen that a Nazi came
with dogs to expel all Jews from the queue. She herself was pushed out of a
queue by the Nazis many times, being kicked and whipped or smashed with a
Many times Adela was taken to forced
labour such as washing, cleaning and cutting wood for the schutzpolizei
who stationed at Robotnicza St.
- close to the Schwarzers' house. Once (still by the end of 1939) the
Nazis detained Adela for a longer time at their camp. Her father Mechel
knew and was upset about it, fearing that she had been raped. But Mechel
had a gift of conversation - he came to the policeman with a nice chat and
was let in. The talk was about the Nazi's business in his heimat, which was a
small bankrupt photo shop. Finally, the German excused himself for keeping Adela
at work too long and he released her.
In winter 1939 father Mechel Schwarzer
was forced by the Nazi to move to Rzeszow.
The family was still registered at the Jewish Community in Kraków on August
28th (the surviving “Protokols” for Adela and Helena)
and on September 8th (Izak) of 1940 (Jewish Historical Institute at Warsaw).
The witnesses signed on Adela's and Helena's registration forms
was Maria Rosen living in 13 Tarnowerstrasse and Sala Tenenbaum
living in 43 Kalwaryjska St.; a witness to Izak was Adela.
Next year, at a succeeding stage of
“purifying the old German city”, Kraków, the Schwarzers
were forced out of the house in Wielicka St. with only what they could take
in their hands; the rest of their property stayed there in their house with
the son of their servant, Anna Urbaniak - Roman. And this is Adela's
recollection of her farewell to her family house: their Polish neighbours are
kicking their scanty luggage and shouting: “Away with them! Go to Palestine!”
They actually moved with German transport to Rzeszów, to join Mechel.
Later Regina made trips to
their house in Kraków to bring clothes and other necessary things. This is
owing to her servant Anna Urbaniak that Adela regained her family
photos after the WW II, which were sent to her in Sweden…
In the Occupied Rzeszów – until the Liquidation of the Ghetto
In Rzeszów they lived in 14
Galezowskiego Street (one level houses that
exist no longer) with another Jewish family of four persons – together
13 persons in one room and a kitchen. The Schwarzer parents died in
May 1941 - Malka from heart disease on 27th, Mechel from
typhoid on 29th (see the unique Jewish death records in the State Archives
and USC office in Rzeszów). Maybe their burial places could be identified in
the new Jewish cemetery at Czekaj district, as the locations are known, but
the map of the cemetery cannot be found at the moment… And a major part
of the grave stones were used by the Nazi to pave Chopin
The children were moved to Szpitalna 1, part of
what soon became the “smaller ghetto” (which was liquidated
first). Adela remembers Nazis coming with dogs to the market place on
Fridays. Their task was to catch some Jews – for the city to be
“cleaned”, but they did not dare select the victims: they left it
to the dogs. The Jew who was sniffed by the dog, was
taken for elimination. As is known from history of the Holocaust in Rzeszów,
its ghetto was closed on January
10th, 1942, with 12,5 thousand Rzeszów
Jews, who in June were joined by a similar number of Jews from the vicinity.
The 19 years' old Adela was included in a forced labour group who
worked at the local railway station. Her work was to unload wagons with coal,
wood and sand. She also dug ditches, helping one tall woman, Jewish professor
who could not manage with her job.
In the spring 1942 Adela together with her forced labour group was
sent by the Nazi to work at Biesiadka camp. SHE NEVER SAW HER SISTERS AND BROTHERS AGAIN. A gleam
of hope is sustained in Adela because some women from Rzeszow
who came to Czestochowa labour
camp told her that her youngest sister Amalia was hidden in a
litter-box from the Nazi during the deportations.
What happened in Rzeszów in the succeeding
months is supposed to be the climax and focus of this story because then the
fates of the Schwarzer siblings were determined, and of them we know
nothing. Various sources give varying numbers and places of exterminations.
Here is knowledge that all of them would agree
about: the Jews of Rzeszów and those brought to the Rzeszów ghetto from the
surroundings were exterminated following a number of deportations which
started in July 1942 (Tuesday 6/7th: the smaller, southern ghetto; Thursday
10th, Monday 14th: Kopernik St., Tannenbaum St., elderly people and the
Jewish hospital; Friday 19th). All deported groups were marched to the
Staroniwa railway station at Rzeszów. From there they reached two possible
destinies: they were either murdered at the Belzec death camp or at the Forest
near Glogów Malopolski (some call it RudnaForest).
The number given for the Jews killed at Belzec
in the July action is 14,000. In his unique diary Stanislaw Kotula writes
that the GlogówForest
was place of extermination of mainly elderly and sick Jews. The number given
for those victims varies from 2 to 6 thousand.
On August 7th the remaining women with the
children were gathered (by a Nazi deceit) and brought to Pelkina, and later
to Belzec (more than 1000). On November
15th 1942 there was another extermination transport to Belzec
taking life of 2000 Jews. It left ca 3000 Jews in the southern ghetto, which
now became divided into ghetto A east to Baldachowska
St. with forced labour workers, and ghetto B
west to Baldachowska, called by the prisoners schmeltzgetto (“melting
ghetto”) – ie ghetto for Jews designated to be killed.
The latter were all taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau
and perished in the gas chambers in September 1943. Between September 1943
and July 1944 the force labour prisoners were also sent to Auschwitz,
some of them escaped and hid until the liberation, some survived Auschwitz.
Some of them, after being moved to Szebnie forced labour camp in September
1943, were shot at Dobrucowa forest.
The historical description allows for a
hypothesis that the older of the Schwarzer siblings could be selected
for forced labour, just as Adela, which gave a better chance of survival.
Especially the final group of ghetto A had successful escapes. The children
could escape or were hidden – and the world knows of many such miracle
May Izak, Gusta, Helena,
Regina, and the
youngest Samuel (who was 14 in 1942) and Amalia (who was 12 in
1942) – have had more luck than the 6 million
Jews murdered at the Shoah?
Adela Schwarzer's Story of Her Work at the Nazi Forced Labour Camps
At Biesiadka Adela was among the
prisoners who were commanded to cut down the woods. Adela remembers: -
“My manager was a small fat German who always wore civil clothes, a
little green hat with a feather on his head. When we arrived, we found there
were a lot of vermin, and we became all covered with insects all over our
bodies. To live, we had to eat a kind of potato soup. There was a lot of sand
in it. We were guarded by volksdeutschers, a Polish man and a Ukrainian. If
we tried to straighten up our backs, we were battered with a stick. When I
lost consciousness once, I had to be lying on the ground until I regained
consciousness by myself. No one was allowed to help me. A number of times I
saw sick people who had to dig their own graves. After that they were
Since February 1943 she stayed at the forced
labour camp at Huta Komorowska. -“There I also had to cut down woods. I
did not have proper clothes, so my hands and feet were frozen. We survived on
garbage and potato peels, and a lot of similar stuff. The barracks were full
of vermin – due to this we suffered day and night; fight with the insects
was really exhaustive. There were no beds there, we
slept on a very cold floor. I got sick with typhoid. My health was still very
bad, when I was forced to do my physical work as usual. The food was very,
very bad. During the nights we had to be standing outside the barracks in a
roll call for many hours. During that time the kapo threatened to shoot us or
send us away. He beat us with his gun.”
Next Adela was sent to the Plaszow camp
at Kraków. The prisoners wore clothes with numbers. Their work was sowing
buttons to Nazi uniforms. The succeeding camp - since October 1943 - was
Skarzysko-Kamienna, where they had to work in an ammunition factory. Adela
was compelled to work at a drilling machine for a 12 hours' shift. The work
was very straining and because of exhaustion she once fell asleep at a
machine, and was woken up by a volksdeutsch woman who poured water on her.
They were fed only once a day, and during the meal they had to stand at the
machines. During that work Adela was terribly wounded by the machine.
She was operated; a blood infection followed. After the operation the wound
was not sown up, with the result that up till now the hurt finger has not
been working properly.
Since August 1944 Adela was working at Czestochowa,
at another ammunition factory. The boss of her shift was a German, one
Winter. She was beaten up many times there. “They beat me even because
of my being sick in the stomach and leaving for toilet. Once a machine got
broken, when I was operating it. I was taken to the guard - Herr Winter was
also there. They laid me on a table and Winter ordered a man to whip me until
my whole body was blue. When this molesting was over, I was compelled to go
and thank Winter that he had been so kind and had not given me more
At the CzestochowacampAdela
was trying an escape. She managed to get out of the camp and reach some
peasants. She bought bread from them for the golden ring she had in her dress
sown to it for that occasion. But she came back to the labour camp and shared
the bread with her companions. She wouldn’t know how to survive
Finally, in January 1945 (when the Red Army was
close), the time came for the last camp - Bergen-Belsen.
-“First, we were sent to Buchenwald by a freight train - without
windows or toilet, without food – and this lasted for a number of days.
We were in a really bad condition when we reached Buchenwald.
There we changed wagons, and they sent us to Bergen-Belsen.
When we arrived, we had to be queuing for inspection for many hours. In the
camp there was very little to eat and for the last period hardly any water.
For a short time, I was taken to cutting woods. If we didn’t do our
work as expected, we were beaten.”
After the Liberation – the
Wonderful Survival and the Never-Ending Search
-“When we were liberated by the Allied
Forces in April 1945, I was in such a bad condition that I didn’t know
what was happening to me or around.” Indeed, she was thrown on a mount
of dead people, and she really owes her life to a her
Jewish co-prisoner, Betty (now married Goldberg, living in Israel),
who told about her to the British troops. Adela was taken to 81 BR
General Hospital. When she got better, she was sent from the transit centre
in Lubeck, Germany,
to Sweden by
the Swedish Red Cross (Folke Bernadotte's “white buses”) on the
ship SS “Ronnkaer”, on July
16th, 1945. She arrived in Malmö on the next day.
In Malmö the Swedish Red Cross considered her
so weak that they took her in for quarantine in a hospital for four weeks.
Later the whole group of Bergen-Belsen survivors
were sent to Baggĺ as convalescents. They were offered work at ASEA
(now ABB) in Västerĺs, which they accepted with deeply felt joy.
Since that time Adela Schwarzer has been
searching for her brothers and sisters - without success but never loosing
hope, which “dies last”… Memory of them sustained her
through all that horrible and has been coming back to her day and night ever
since. These are Izak, Gusta, Helena,
and Amalia Schwarzer.
Izak Schwarzer born 1919
Gusta Schwarzer born 1921
Helena Schwarzer born 1925
Regina Schwarzer born 1926
Samuel Schwarzer born 1928
Amalia Schwarzer born 1930
We – the Swedish and Polish
family of Adela Schwarzer – will never stop searching until a positive
or negative answer is given us.
Written by Violetta Reder on the basis of bits and pieces of Adela
Schwarzer's recollections put down by her husband Gösta and son Jan, and
of the authors' own contacts with Adela
1. BIEBERSTEIN Aleksander, Zaglada Zydów w Krakowie (The Shoah in Kraków)
Kraków 1985. 2. DUDA Eugeniusz, The Jews of Kraków, Kraków 1999.
3. KOTULA Stanislaw, Losy Zydów rzeszowskich 1939-1944. Kronika tamtych dni
(The Fates of the Rzeszów Jews. A Chronicle of those Days), Rzeszów 1999.
4. PIECH Stanislaw, W cieniu Kosciolów i synagog. Zycie religijne
miedzywojennego Krakowa 1918-1939 (In the Shadow of Churches and Synagogues.
Religious Life of Kraków between the Wars 1918-1939), Kraków 1999.
5. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, New York 1990 after: www.motl.wiesenthal.com